US Calls for More MRSA Surveillance in view of Canadian findings

US - News that Canadian researchers had found MRSA on pig farms in Ontario has prompted calls for the US government to insist that federal regulators introduce a more intensive surveillance system.
calendar icon 27 November 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Campaigners want to see measures in place to track the incidence of the deadly bacteria in premises other than healthcare facilities. The super bug is prevalent in the environment and farms are a prime site. The Netherlands confirmed that it had isolated an MRSA strain on a pig unit earlier this year and there are substantiated reports of the infection occuring in similar situations in the Far East and Asia.

In the pig industry, the close proximity in which stockpeople work with their animals appears to be a critical factor. The risk of transmission from animals to people, or because of the production practices used and/or the work environment, may be exacerbated. Infection is usually transmitted through open wounds

The US National Pork Board is already funding studies on MRSA on farms. However, many feel that US officials should be doing their own research. According to a recent Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report, MRSA caused 94,000 serious illnesses and 18,650 deaths, in 2005 - more fatalities than caused by the AIDS virus which claimed 17,000 victims.

Serious issue
The Ontario study has flagged up serious issues about livestock, food production and the use of antibiotics. The US pig industry commentators say that the fact that MRSA was detected in Canada doesn't mean US herds do not also have the problem.

Many believe it is the indiscriminate use of in-feed anti-bacterial drugs - primarily as growth enhancers - which has contributed to the evolution of superbugs. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that 70 per cent of all antibiotics used in the United States are in food additives for livestock and poultry.

Researchers have not yet proven that antibiotic use has caused the MRSA in the Canadian pigs. Even so, the study should bolster support for a bill to phase out the non-therapeutic use of such drugs in farm animals.

MRSA has caused a public outcry in the health sector and increased scrutiny of health care protocols and hygiene practices. Livestock producers and food manufacturers want to ensure this does not happen to the meat sector.

MRSA cannot be transferred in meat, so long as it is cooked th roughly and handled hygienically. US consumers are being assured that there is no reason to boycott Canadian bacon - a firm family favourite - as curing and adequate cooking will kill-off any potential contamination.

Further Reading

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